Week 11 in Italy: Rome & Cinque Terre
This week in Italy: My friend studying in Berlin comes to visit for the weekend to visit Rome and Cinque Terre.
This was my second visit to Rome; the first was with my program back in February. Instead of taking the bus like we had before, the three of us arrived at the main Florence train station and took a high-speed train early in the morning. It’s more expensive, but much more comfortable, and the journey is reduced from four hours to one and a half. Today we had about 12 hours to show our friend the city, where as last time we had 3 days.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about where we went, but I’ll mention some specifics. We had time to go up to the dome of St. Peter’s, which provided great views of the Vatican, and of Rome. We paid the extra 2 euros to take the elevator up to the roof level, and then a narrow set of stairs zigzagging their way through the inner shell of the dome brought us up to the top level.
After the Vatican, we took the metro to MAXXI (National Museum of the 21st Century Arts), up in the northern area of Rome. Their tram system was quite comparable with that of Florence or Berlin, but the subways were slower and overcrowded. The museum was designed by Zaha Hadid, and if you anything about architecture, you’ll know the kinds of buildings she designs.
Not only was the building fascinating to walk through, but there were actually some interesting exhibits as well. The form of the building is a series of bending and overlapping tubes that resemble a transportation infrastructure.
For the rest of the day, we wandered around and saw the usual places: Pantheon, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps.
For the second and last full day of my friend’s visit, we had another full day trip to Cinque Terre planned. Cinque Terre is a series of five coastal towns in northern Italy built into the hillside along the Mediterranean Sea. There is only one road that connects the towns, so trains and ferries are the primary way to get from one town to another. We took two different regional trains in order to get to La Spezia, a nearby port city. We then boarded a local train that brought us to Monterosso Al Mare, one of the five coastal towns.
Monterosso Al Mare
This was the biggest of the five, and had the most beachfront. I never felt the water, but it didn’t seem like it would be that warm. There were a few people going in, but most were sunbathing on the sand. We walked along the beach until the road tunneled though the hillside towards the other side of town, and we took the coastal route. Along this route, there was a German bunker built into the cliffs. In the cramped interior, small horizontal slits allowed light to dimly illuminate pieces of trashy scattered around the dirt floor. Continuing on this path, we walked up to a hilltop, which looked down on the second half of the town. When we were coming down on this path, we took a route that led us through the residential area before getting back to the beach front. It was fascinating to see how different the street design was here. A narrow path led up a steel rock built staircase from the main path. Someone’s front steps came out of their house at a weird angle, accompanied by a leaning piece of rock to serve as a handrail.
Vernazza was the next town over from Monterosso, and much smaller too. It was mostly focused around a protected cove, were fishing boats were tied up. A tall rock formation protruded out from the shoreline, and many houses were built into the steep hill.
On the opposite side, a restaurant was built into the side of the cliff, looking out towards the water. An observation tower stood at the top of the cliff, with a view of the ocean on one side, and the town on the other.
We skipped Corniglia, the next town over because we were running tight on time, and it seemed like the one town that be could skip without missing anything important.
We actually stopped in Manarola before here, but wanted to come back there to see the sunset, so we moved onto the next town, which was Riomaggiore. I though this place was the prettiest of all of the towns, even though we missed the boat launch that is seen on many postcards of this area. After walking above the water for a while, we turned back and headed uphill.
We saw a bridge further up the valley which leaded to a tunnel connecting to Manarola. We thought we should try to head for that so we could walk there, and skip the train. An hour of getting lost left us wondering if any of the roads led up to this bridge that was above us. As it turned out, we would have had to walk on the road for a mile or two in the opposite direction to then walk another one to two miles back to get to the bridge. There was a footpath which was much closer, but we never found that either. But not to worry, because we found a better route, which went over the hill and into the next town, with even better views than the road.
This was the last town of our visit, and it was nearing sunset. I had seen so many pictures of this town before, and I knew this was the place to be. From across the harbor, we were looking back at the hillside village, and I was able to take the picture below.
The warm-toned color of the houses was contrasted by the blue of the water and sky. The image below is the view out towards the water.
To wrap things up, Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. Hiking from town to town is a must to fully enjoy the spectacular views from the hills.
On our way back to Florence, we took one high speed train back, sitting in business class for the same price as economy. Can’t beat that!
See all of my photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddbrown/sets/72157640640691544/.